Ambien is a brand name formulation of the drug zolpidem, and is a prescription medication indicated for use in the management of sleep problems such as insomnia 1. Ambien and drugs like it are considered central nervous system (CNS) depressants because of their calming effects on the brain. Ambien typically causes drowsiness, making it an effective sleep aid 2. Some potential side effects include dizziness, shaking, unsteady balance, and odd dreams. Serious symptoms of overdose can include respiratory depression, slowed heart rate, and loss of consciousness.
Ambien can be addictive for some users despite being legally available with a prescription. Ambien addiction is characterized by compulsive and problematic use regardless of significant life impairment. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that prescription drugs are a growing problem, and that emergency room visits for Ambien problems have nearly doubled between 2004 and 2008 1.
Non-medical use of Ambien is often associated with alcoholism and illegal drug addictions, a combination which can be a dangerous or even deadly combination.7 The user may even take Ambien in an attempt to decrease the unwanted side effects caused by these other drugs.7 Although not specific to Ambien, in general, sedative-hypnotic users are more likely to suffer from a comorbid mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.7
While some users may be able to take the drug as prescribed on a short-term basis, others may develop fierce physiologic dependencies, and eventually become addicted – finding it difficult to quit without help. If you’ve become dependent on Ambien, there are options for you to seek help, including medically supervised detox.
Those who abuse Ambien may have first received the medication via a prescription or, in other cases, have illicitly obtained the drug merely for recreational use. Regardless, the user may begin noticing unpleasant or even dangerous side effects along with the desired effects. These detrimental side effects are important to know and understand as many people may be under the impression that, as a prescription medication, Ambien is entirely safe to take. Below is a list of immediate effects of Ambien abuse:7,10
In the event of an overdose, a person may experience the following hazardous effects:10
If you suspect that someone has overdosed on Ambien or any other drug, it’s vital that you call 911 immediately and wait with the individual until medical personnel arrive.
When you abuse Ambien over an extended period of time, it is more likely that you will develop an addiction, characterized by uncontrollable Ambien use, and other long-term consequences of use. These dangers of continued Ambien use include the following:7,10
When a drug like Ambien is taken for a period of time and then abruptly stopped, an individual may experience withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal include 2, 3:
In rare cases, acute withdrawal from Ambien may lead to convulsions or seizures. Though it presents a small risk, it stresses the potential importance of detoxing under medical supervision. It is common for people to have different experiences during withdrawal. Specific factors that may affect the presence or intensity of withdrawal include:
Abrupt discontinuation of Ambien can produce withdrawal symptoms within a relatively short period of time. Clinical trials in the US showed the emergence of withdrawal symptoms within approximately 48 hours of last use 9.
Withdrawal symptoms may be effectively managed in a supervised detox facility. During medical detox, you’ll typically be tapered off Ambien in order to allow your body time to adjust to not having it anymore. This process of reducing your dosage over time reduces the severity of symptoms and lowers the risk of convulsions/seizures.
Prescription drugs may be used to manage some of the more significant physical and/or psychological symptoms and ensure your safety.
NOTE: Taking Ambien with other sleep medications or alcohol may increase the likelihood of becoming dependent on the drug and experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit 5. Mixing Ambien with other drugs can be dangerous. It is recommended that you discuss all drugs you are taking with your doctor. If you’re combining drugs — especially if you are a heavy alcohol user – it is extremely important to enter a supervised medical detox program, as very serious symptoms can easily arise during withdrawal.
You may be addicted to Ambien and need detox if you show two or more of the following signs 7:
One major danger of long-term Ambien use is a higher risk of accidents. One large study found that users were twice as likely to have car accidents when compared to non-Ambien users 8.
Unfortunately, little is known about how long-term Ambien use and addiction can affect mental health. Withdrawing from it can lead to anxiety, which may or may not persist after detox is complete 3. You should consult with your doctor if you use Ambien and have a history of mental health symptoms.
Detox programs aim to monitor and manage physical and mental symptoms and ease discomfort 6. Supervised detox programs offer the following benefits:
Many treatment programs are available to help with Ambien addiction. Some people seeking treatment choose to attend a detox program, then transition to a different treatment program, such as a drug rehab. Others choose to attend a treatment program that also provides supervised detox.
A rehab program that includes supervised detox allows you to receive both detox and addiction treatment at the same place. This continuity of care is a major benefit for many people — it provides an opportunity to develop relationships with staff members and other clients over a longer period of time. If you choose to attend a stand-alone detox program, you can request a referral to a rehab provider after your detox is complete.
Different levels of care, or intensities of treatment, include:
In addition to choosing a level of care, you may want to consider different types of approaches to treating addiction. You may find one or more of these approaches in a program 4:
There are many options available for Ambien treatment. Considering what level of care and approach you need can help guide your decision. In addition, you may want to consult with your physician or mental health provider, who may be able to recommend a program.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Prescription drug abuse.
 U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2015). MedlinePlus, Zolpidem.
 Victorri‐Vigneau, C., Dailly, E., Veyrac, G., & Jolliet, P. (2007). Evidence of zolpidem abuse and dependence: results of the French Centre for Evaluation and Information on Pharmacodependence (CEIP) network survey. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 64(2), 198-209.
 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide.
 Hajak, G., Müller, W. E., Wittchen, H. U., Pittrow, D., & Kirch, W. (2003). Abuse and dependence potential for the non‐benzodiazepine hypnotics zolpidem and zopiclone: a review of case reports and epidemiological data. Addiction, 98(10), 1371-1378.
 Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
 American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
 Hansen, R. N., Boudreau, D. M., Ebel, B. E., Grossman, D. C., & Sullivan, S. D. (2015). Sedative hypnotic medication use and the risk of motor vehicle crash. American Journal of Public Health, 105(8), e64-e69.
 U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2007). Zolpidem Tartrate.
 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Zolpidem (and Zaleplon, Zopiclone).